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  • OECD's Better Life Index Update

    The OECD 's Better Life Index has been updated with 2013 data. Overall, most countries look to come in with higher well-being ranks. Another year of recovery (albeit not fast enough for some), seems to have had a positive effect. Giving equal weight to all 11 criteria, the top ten countries come in as Australia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Switzerland, U.S., Finland, Netherlands, and New Zealand. Once again, the U.S. comes out well when we give greater weight to income, housing, and jobs. But here are the ranking if we focus on on life satisfaction, health, and work-life balance: Explore the updated Better Life Index here .
  • Time to Move to Angola; Or How Pay Varies Around the Globe

    Having just filed your taxes, you probably have a very clear sense of what you earned in 2013. Now, Mercer 's MThink researchers want you to better understand how other people are paid in other countries. In this infographic they share some top-line findings from their most recent global survey on salary differentials . (Go to the full-size image at MThink here ):
  • Why Germans Rent

    The Germans have been putting themselves forward as the model for smart economic behavior in Europe over the last few years (in fairness, others have looked to them as the model as well). So it is interesting to note that they are not big on home ownership. At Quartz , Matthew Phillips has an interesting article on why Germans love to rent and are reluctant to buy. And though those data are old, we know Germany’s homeownership rate remains quite low. It was 43% in 2013. This may seem strange. Isn’t home ownership a crucial cog to any healthy economy? Well, as Germany shows—and Gershwin wrote—it ain’t necessarily so. In Spain, around 80% of people live in owner-occupied housing. (Yay!) But unemployment is nearly 27%, thanks to the burst of a giant housing bubble. (Ooof.) Only 43% own their home in Germany, where unemployment is 5.2%. Of course, none of this actually explains why Germans tend to rent so much. Turns out, Germany’s rental-heavy real-estate market goes all the way back to a bit of extremely unpleasant business in the late 1930s and 1940s. Read Most Germans don’t buy their homes, they rent. Here’s why. here .
  • The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap 2013 Report

    Nordic nations continue to provide the best opportunities for women, as the top four nations in the World Economic Forum 's Global Gender Gap 2013 report are Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Just like last year and the year before. The newcomer in the top 5 is the Philippines, leapfrogging Ireland, New Zealand, and Denmark (who all drop down one notch). Switzerland holds its spot at 9, and last year's surprise newcomer to the top 10, Nicaragua, drops from 9 to 10. The Gender Gap index is based on the World Economic finding that greater participation of women in the labor force and in policy correlates with stronger economic performance overall. As the report's authors note, "The most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent—the skills, education and productivity of its workforce—and women account for one-half of the potential talent base throughout the world." The below figure, from the report, plots countries' Gender Gap scores against per capita GDP. While Europe continues to be dominate the top 10, thanks to the Nordic nations coming closer to closing the gender gap than any economy in modern history, North America and Latin America showed significant improvement over the last 7 years. From the report: The overall score of the North America region has improved by 5% between 2006 and 2013. This improvement is mainly due to increases on the Political Empowerment subindex scores. The North America region has closed 74% of its gender gap this year with a percentage change of the overall score of 0.3% compared to last year. The region is first among the different regions on the global score but also on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex (82% of gender gap closed), Educational Attainment subindex (100% of gender gap closed) and Health and Survival subindex (98% of gender gap closed). On the Political Empowerment subindex, the region ranks in fifth position (16% gender gap closed), just ahead of the Middle East and North Africa region. Canada (20) moves up one spot in the overall ranking. This is due to improvements on the Labour force participation, Estimated earned income, and the Legislators, senior officials and managers’ indicators. These gains are partially offset by decreases in the Wage equality and Professional and technical workers indicators. Canada ranks 9th on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex and has fully closed the education gender gap. Canada has no data this year for the Enrolment in secondary education indicator. The United States (23) falls one spot this year despite the improvement of its overall score. The small decline in the ranking is the result of the relatively stronger performance of countries such as China, Malta, Lithuania, France and Bulgaria on the Political Empowerment subindex, even though the United States showed a minor improvement on the Women in parliament indicator (17% in 2012 to 18% in 2013). The United States’ Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex score improves due to increases in labour force participation and the estimated earned income ratio. The country continues to be part of the top 10 on this subindex, gaining two places, from the 8th position to the 6th position. The United States has fully closed its gender gap in education and health. The overall score of the Latin America region has improved by 6% between 2006 and 2013. This is mainly due to improvements in the Economic Participation and Opportunity and Political Empowerment subindexes. The Latin America and Caribbean region, which has closed 70% of its overall gender gap in 2013, is showing the biggest improvements from last year compared to the other regions. The region ranks fourth on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, having closed 63% of its gender gap. Only two countries from the region are part of the top twenty of the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. However, the region performs well on certain economic indicators such as Legislators, senior officials and managers; ten out of the 20 best performers globally are from Latin America and the Caribbean. The region performs well this year again on the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival subindexes holding for both subindexes the 2nd position just after North America. Thirteen countries from the region have fully closed their health and survival gender gap. Nine are part of the top twenty countries on the Literacy rate indicator and eight are in the top twenty on the Enrolment in secondary education indicator. On the Political Empowerment subindex, having closed 20% of its gender gap, the region ranks just after Asia and the Pacific in second position. The three overall highest climbers of the 110 countries that have been included in the Report since 2006 are from Latin America and the Caribbean: Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador. Nicaragua (10) continues to hold the top spot in the...
  • The Link Between Home Ownership Rates and Rising Unemployment

    The jobless recovery has us looking everywhere for the culprits--the factors that exacerbate unemployment. But we have not spent a lot of time connecting home ownership and unemployment. University of Warwick's Andrew Oswald and Dartmouth's David Blanchflower say they have evidence "that the high rate of home ownership in the western world may be an important reason for the high unemployment that we all see around us." In a new paper they share data from U.S. states and linkages between increased home ownership rates and lost jobs. Oswald provides a summary of their findings at Vox : Famously, Switzerland has 3% unemployment and 30% home ownership, while Spain has 25% unemployment and 80% home ownership. Simple correlations of this kind do not count as (remotely) persuasive causal evidence. They are open to the objection, in particular, that they do not difference out country fixed effects. So, in our paper we take many decades of data from US states, which as a federally organised nation state, offers a useful spatial mini-laboratory for econometric work on unemployment rates, and we then estimate state panel unemployment equations. We adjust for state fixed effects, for year dummies, and for the demographic and educational composition of the people who live in the different states. When this is done, we find that the lagged home-ownership rate acts as a strong predictor of the unemployment rate. The size of the estimated effect is startling: A doubling of home ownership is associated with more than a doubling of the long-run unemployment rate. As a check, we show that this result is holds up against splitting the data set into different sub-periods and into different areas (such as North and South) within the US. We also show that the patterns are – very probably – not because home owners themselves are disproportionately unemployed. Our work chimes with forthcoming recent research by Jani-Petri Laamanen, who studies a natural experiment in Finland (2013). Read High home ownership as a driver of high unemployment here .
  • OECD's International Migration Outlook Shows Pickup in Immigration, But Siginficant Unemployment for Immigrants

    In the U.S., immigration stories have been the domain more of the political press than business and econ journalists. But mobility issues are one measure of economic changes. For example, worker migration within Europe all bu shut down during the recession--declining nearly 40% between 2008 and 2009, according to the OECD. It has since recovered in a big way, even if the workers migrating within Europe are having trouble finding jobs. The OECD 's International Migration Outlook shows a slow rise of migration into OECD nations--a rate of 2% the last two years. Here is a look at inflows across OECD member nations: Read the full report here . And learn about the key takeaways in the report from this short video:
  • OECD's Better Life Index and What Makes for a Happy Nation

    The OECD 's Better Life Index is out, and it is, well, a bit better itself this year. The OECD has made the data more interactive. Comparing the relative quality of life among nations is easy to do and more than a little interesting, in part because you can work with the various categories. For example, if you want to give extra weight to income, housing, and jobs, then the rankings look like this. But if you, instead, place greater emphasis on life satisfaction, health, and education, you get this. At MarketWatch , Jim Jelter and his colleagues were most interested in the happiness of different countries. He breaks down the top five in this video. Explore the Better Life Index yourself, or with classmates, here .
  • Swiss Pay Remains the Best Pay

    If salary matters most to you, you will want to try to get a job in Switzerland. In Mercer 's latest International Geographic Salary Differentials , Switzerland dominates the rankings (of course, this report doesn't cover how expensive it is to live in Switzerland ). Some other interesting findings from the report include Venezuela as the place with the highest gains in salary over the last year. The full report is available for purchase, here . But here are some of the key findings (full size graphic available here ):
  • Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index: Switzerland Leads Europe-Heavy Top Ten

    Even with all of the economic struggles of the EU, Europe remains the region best equipped to support a strong tourism industry. In the World Economic Forum 's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index for 2013, the top five countries are all in Europe: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Spain, and the UK. France and Sweden are also top ten countries, along with outsiders the U.S., Canada, and Singapore . Overall, World Economic Forum researchers found some positive trends globally in the travel and tourism sector. Two years after the last edition of The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report, the world economy remains somewhat fragile. Growth in emerging markets is returning tentatively, but rising inequalities, macroeconomic concerns, and high unemployment— particularly among the young—continues to afflict many advanced economies. Despite the mixed global economic picture, prospects for the Travel & Tourism (T&T) industry are not entirely gloomy. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals grew by 4 percent between January and August 2012 compared with the same period in 2011, and total expenditure on tourism has also increased. Although most of the increase in spending was from travelers from developing countries such as Brazil, China, and Indonesia, advanced-economy travelers—even those from economies where the economic outlook appears more pessimistic—increased their spending. Even amid shrinking household and business budgets, spending on travel is continuing, although the structure is changing. While the frequency, distance, and length of international trips tend to be shorter, the number of international travelers has increased—perhaps indicating that travel is increasingly seen as necessity rather than a luxury. Travel & Tourism remains a critical sector for development and economic growth for advanced and developing economies alike. Developing a strong T&T sector supports job creation, raises national income, and also benefits the general competitiveness of economies through improvements in hard and soft infrastructure. Access the full report here .
  • Can Investors Spot the Next Cyprus?

    While we continue to watch events in Cyprus , MarketWatch 's Jim Je l ter looks at countries that might be "the next Cyprus." To be more specific, Jeiter notes other countries where the overall economy is highly dependent on the banking sector. Switzerland and the UK, for example, are two countries that are, as Jelter puts it, "most exposed to the ups and downs of their banks":
  • Swiss Vote to Curb "Fat Cat" Compensation

    Swiss voters have made their views on "abzockerei" clear. Yesterday, nearly 68% of voters in the highly independent and very wealthy nation voted in favor of measures to limit pay of executives--referred to as "fat cat pay" or "abzockerei" by proponents of the initiative. The initiative may take some time to put into effect, but wide support of the measure across the very pro-business nation is drawing a lot of attention across Europe today. From The Economist 's Schumpeter column: The Swiss business community has been shaken by this outburst of populism and argues that it endangers Switzerland as a place to locate companies. A “counter-initiative” offering shareholders stronger voting powers, but without threatening criminal sanctions, was rejected by the electorate on polling day. Economiesuisse, the Swiss Business Federation, accepts the public vote, but says such complex and emotionally-charged changes should be implemented with great care. The initiative against “Abzockerei” (roughly translated as fatcat pay) was started by Thomas Minder (pictured), a family entrepreneur from Schaffhausen. It gained additional momentum in January on news that Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceuticals company, intended to pay its departing chairman Daniel Vasella a severance package of SFr72m ($76m). Mr Vasella later refused the package. The people’s initiative foresees that shareholders will be able to vote bindingly at annual general meetings on the total amount of pay awarded to board members and on ratifying their appointments for the next year. Pension funds must vote in the interests of their members and make public how they have voted. Board members may be offered no golden hello or severance package, nor can they have consulting or other contracts with firms in the same group. Read the full article here .
  • Switzerland Tops Global Competitiveness Index for 4th Straight Year, U.S. Slips to #7

    The EU economy may be struggling (and dragging the global economy down with it), but some EU nations remain among the most competitive economies in the world. The World Economic Forum 's latest Global Competitiveness Index has several EU nations ranked among the top ten. Non-EU European nation Switzerland remains at the top of the list, followed by Singapore. But then Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany take spots 3-6. The U.S. comes in at #7. You can see where different nations fall on the list in this interactive map: Some other interesting highlights from the report include Switzerland and Finland coming through as the world's most innovative economies, and China coming through as the most competitive large, emerging market economy (while India and Russia slide in the rankings). You can access the full report here .
  • Global Information Technology Report 2012: Impact of IT on Economic Growth

    The World Economic Forum 's annual Global Information Technology Report is an effort to "explore the impact of information and communication technologies (ICT) on productivity and development as a component of the Forum's research on competitiveness." The 2012 report is now out and it is more than just data porn (though it most certainly is that). It may be of little surprise that the nations that top most of the ICT rankings in the report are those countries that show up at the top of most of the quality-of-life rankings--Switzerland, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Hong King etc. But the correlation there is still interesting to observe. For example, take a look at this scatterplot graph of computer use at home, and note the countries in the cluster to the top right: The U.S. is near the top of most, though not all, lists. For example. the US comes in at just 33 on broadband bandwidth per capita, and is now 51st in quality of math and science education. Here is a look at how the US stacks up in network readiness: Read the full report here . And watch this video, in which some of the researchers who worked on discuss the impact of advancements in digitization on overall economic growth:
  • Switzerland and Japan Take Top 4 Spots on World's Most Expensive Cities List

    Zurich has supplanted Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit . The struggles in the EU seem to have pushed already pricey Swiss cities Zurich and Geneva into the top three most expensive cities, as the Swiss Franc keeps getting more and more valuable. From the EIU's Worldwide Cost of Living 2012 report: Both Japan and Switzerland have seen strong currency movements over the last few years which have made them relatively more expensive. This has become especially true of Switzerland in the last year, where investors looking for a haven currency outside the beleaguered Eurozone have invested heavily in the Swiss Franc, prompting an unprecedented move by the Swiss government to peg the Swiss Franc to the Euro to keep the currency competitive. Although Switzerland has long featured in, or around, the world’s most expensive cities, the strong swing in currency headwinds is responsible for Zurich’s current elevated position. In local terms the opposite has been true, with relatively cheaper imports and a stable economy keeping local price inflation low. This mirrors a similar situation in Japan over recent years which resulted in Tokyo and Osaka traditionally holding the unenviable title of being the world’s most expensive cities. Local inflation in mature markets always has far less influence on the relative cost of living than the currency movements of the countries in question. This also explains the recent presence of Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne in the ten most expensive locations as last year saw the Australian dollar pass parity with the US dollar from holding half that value a decade ago. New Yorkers with empty pockets may be surprised to learn that their city isn't near the top of the list. In fact, no American city cracks the top ten this year. Here are the ten most expensive cities: Read the EIU's release here .
  • The 'Hidden Value' of CASSH

    We have spent much of the past year discussing the state of PIIGS--Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain. And it has never been an encouraging discussion. So Russ Koesterich , Managing Director and Head of Product for North America iShares , gives us a happier acronym: CASSH. Canada, Australia, Singapore, Switzerland, and Hong Kong are five developed economies that, while smaller than a lot of their key trading partners, have strong fundamentals. Koesterich has put together a succinct-but-telling infographic to tout the strength of CASSH. Here's a taste: Click here for the full infographic. (Hat tip Barry Ritholtz )